Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Official Connecticut's Hostile Work Environment and Culture of Corruption

CONNECTICUT NEWS

DMV Manager Denies Complaints

Allegations Of Favoritism, Other Misdeeds Listed As Exhibits At Hearing
January 17, 2007
By KATIE MELONE, Courant Staff Writer

At the Department of Motor Vehicles, emissions manager Timothy Kulish oversaw a hostile work environment in which his lover and a friend were favored, promoted and allowed to fudge mileage sheets and timecards, while other subordinates feared speaking up and were punished unfairly with negative reviews, according to two employee complaints made public during a Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities hearing Tuesday.

Kulish said Tuesday night that the allegations by employees Ronald DePoto and Tina Colapietro are patently false, and questioned the motives of the employees, who filed their complaints on the same day in February 2006.

"To be maligned like this is very sad," said Kulish, who was placed on administrative leave last week for alleged employee misconduct.

The complaints against Kulish were entered as exhibits in a hearing on three whistleblower complaints Kulish himself filed against the DMV and two agency affirmative-action employees.

Kulish's complaint alleges an improper investigation and retaliation by those employees, who are responsible for a probe into Colapietro's and DePoto's complaints and a third anonymous complaint.

Colapietro's six-page complaint details nearly five years of alleged misconduct by Kulish, a division manager of the emissions program, and his top managers. Colapietro states that DMV employee Cheri Cedrone, then an emissions agent, told her that she went on a "first date" with Kulish in July 2002 and was in love with him. At some point later, according to Colapietro, Kulish promoted Cedrone and another friend, Mike DePaulo, at the same time "to legitimize" Cedrone's promotion. In her complaint, Colapietro alleged that Cedrone and DePaulo fudged their mileage to justify their need for state-issued cars.

Colapietro also alleges that Cedrone claimed on work days to be in the office when she was with Kulish.

Colapietro alleges she unfairly received a negative evaluation because paperwork that could disprove the assertion that Cedrone did not work on certain days was not properly maintained by Cedrone. And when another employee questioned a negative review around the same time, Colapietro alleges, the employee was told by Kulish, "Sorry... Cheri yelled at me and said you were not one of the agents that was suppose [sic] to get a bad review."

"For whatever reason Ms. Colapietro feels the need to fabricate stories," Kulish said in response. Kulish denied having an affair with Cedrone, and said he never gave any employee a bad review. Cedrone and DePaulo could not be reached.

DePoto says in his own complaint that Kulish asked him to be his assistant and assume supervisor duties over emissions agents but he never assumed the role because Cedrone and DePaulo instead became Kulish's "right-hand men." DePoto also says that Kulish stopped him from questioning Cedrone about a three-hour lunch because Cedrone complained to Kulish about it. Cedrone worked under DePoto at the time.

Kulish denied DePoto's claims.

Kulish first filed his complaints with the human rights commission in late March, according to testimony Tuesday. He claims DMV affirmative action administrator Carmen Arroyo and affirmative action officer Elissa Velez failed to follow proper procedure in investigating the DePoto and Colapietro complaints, and the third anonymous complaint accusing Kulish of allowing a racially and sexually explicit Dave Chappelle DVD to be aired at a December 2005 lunchtime holiday party.

Kulish's complaints also assert that the affirmative action employees retaliated against him by isolating him from management and keeping him from industry conferences in an attempt to make his job "more difficult, tedious, and inefficient."

With regard to the complaint about the video, Kulish said he would have stopped the DVD "if someone had expressed any kind of tension or discomfort with what was happening."

Kulish has worked at the agency since June 1999. He was suspended in January 2004 after having an affair with a subordinate, according to testimony given by Arroyo at Tuesday's hearing.

"The relationship he had with one of our employees created, in the eyes of some other employees, a hostile work environment and we determined this to be a violation of our sexual harassment prevention policy," DMV spokesman William Seymour said. Seymour would not say with which employee Kulish was involved.

Over the past six years, the emissions testing program has been riddled with problems; it was stopped as recently as 2004 after auditors' findings cast doubt on its accuracy and integrity.

Contact Katie Melone at kmelone@courant.com.

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